Workers Vanguard No. 977
1 April 2011
The latest issue of Workers Vanguard (No. 972) reprints an article [“Thailand: For a Workers and Peasants Government!”] from Australasian Spartacist (No. 211) that inexplicably characterizes Laos as a “deformed workers state”. It is my understanding that Laos, like Cambodia, never became a deformed workers state due to its extreme economic backwardness, almost nonexistent proletariat, devastation under US imperialist bombing, and anti-working class Stalinist leadership.
To the editors,
I think you owe the readers an explanation why you never before (to my knowledge) considered Laos a workers state.
I read a WV article last nite on the situation in Thailand. In the article, it states that there is some sort of deformed workers state in Laos. I have never read anything about this in the past, including in the WV, which I have been reading closely for decades. Could the WV elaborate on this, as I think that readers would be interested in learning about this. By the way, the article was very good.
After internal discussion, a recent gathering of the International Communist League codified that Laos is, and has been since the victory of the Indochinese Revolution, a bureaucratically deformed workers state. The Pathet Lao guerrilla insurgents gained state power in Laos several weeks after the 30 April 1975 seizure of Saigon, capital of South Vietnam, by the forces of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam and the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front. The liberation of Saigon marked the victory of the Vietnamese Revolution against U.S. imperialism and its South Vietnamese puppet regime.
After the Pathet Lao took power, the Spartacus Youth League, then the youth organization of the Spartacist League/U.S., wrote: “With its predominantly feudal and even pre-feudal tribal relations of production, a Laotian state established by the Stalinists would tend to lean on and take on the social character of the neighboring more advanced Vietnamese and Chinese deformed workers states” (Young Spartacus No. 33, June 1975). In power, the Laotian Stalinists went on to establish a regime based on proletarian property forms, in conjunction with Vietnam. We explained two years later in “Cambodia: Peasant Stalinism Run Amok” (WV No. 180, 4 November 1977) that what happened in Laos was akin to Soviet Central Asia and Mongolia in the decade following the October Revolution, where peasant and nomadic societies were absorbed into the Russian economy. However, in subsequent years we failed to codify this understanding.
Laos is based on a collectivized economy but ruled by a nationalist bureaucratic caste under the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. While in recent years the Stalinist regime has enacted a series of “market reforms” following the examples of China and Vietnam, the class character of the state remains the same.
Trotskyists unconditionally militarily defend such workers states—which also include China, Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba—against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. We also fight for proletarian political revolutions to oust the parasitic, nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies, whose program of “socialism in one country” undermines the defense of the workers states and means conciliating the imperialist powers that are intent on their destruction. In the case of Laos, which has only a tiny proletariat, this perspective is integrally tied to the fight for political revolution in Vietnam as well as China. In all cases, development toward socialism is dependent on proletarian revolution in the imperialist centers, such as Japan and the U.S.
Under Pol Pot’s Stalinist Khmer Rouge, Cambodia fared differently than Laos. As the U.S. imperialists were being routed in Vietnam, Pol Pot, at the head of a peasant army, seized control of neighboring Cambodia, which had also suffered years of U.S. carpet bombing and destruction. We initially characterized Cambodia as a deformed workers state while noting that “the contradictory character of Stalinism was nowhere more graphically revealed than in the actions of the victorious Cambodian peasant army marching into Phnom Penh not to liberate the poor and working people but rather to brutally impose an immediate and total depopulation of the city” (WV No. 72, 4 July 1975).
Indeed, Pol Pot’s murderous horror brought Cambodia to the brink of extinction, razing the cities, destroying the tiny proletariat and forcing virtually the entire population into barely disguised labor camps at the most primitive subsistence level. As we later wrote: “Pol Pot’s Cambodia was never a workers state, even deformed . The ideology of Pol Pot & Co. was the antithesis of the program of communists for whom industrialization and technological progress lay the material basis for the free and full development of human potential in a socialist society of plenty for all” (WV No. 692, 5 June 1998).
In the winter of 1978-79, Vietnam, seeking to end Khmer Rouge border attacks, invaded Cambodia, liberating the Cambodian people from the death grip of Pol Pot’s forces. Washington, in its vindictive drive to punish Vietnam for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in Indochina, seized on this invasion to side with the Khmer Rouge. For more than 10 years, Vietnamese troops defended the People’s Republic of Kampuchea against the CIA’s murderous Cambodian allies. However, in 1989 Soviet leader Gorbachev, in his treacherous and futile drive to appease imperialism, joined the imperialists in pressuring his Vietnamese ally to cut a deal with the Khmer Rouge. In September 1989, the last detachment of Vietnamese troops left Cambodia, opening the way for the return of the imperialists and the king. Cambodia is a bourgeois state under a constitutional monarchy.